1. BYOC (bring your own condom). Don’t rely on a partner to have condoms, dams, or lube. Always have your own supply, and check the expiration dates before use.
2. Role-play safer-sex conversations with friends. Brainstorming strategies for dealing with difficult responses and practicing what to say can help you to be more comfortable and assertive when the time comes to talk about it for real. The best input and advice may come from people who share your experiences and who truly understand your concerns.
3. Create basic limits and boundaries around safer sex in advance. Writing them down can help remind you that they’re important and nonnegotiable.
4. Avoid getting so drunk or high that your judgment may fail you.
5. Make safer sex part of sex, rather than something that interrupts sex. For example, put on male or female condoms together.
6. Don’t rush into higher-risk activities. First take your time with low- or no-risk activities, which can help build trust and communication (and also feel really good).
7. If you have a history of sexual or other abuse and feel this interferes with your ability to be safe, seek the help of a therapist, counselor, or support group to assist you in your healing and to help you select partners and sexual settings that make you feel comfortable.
8. Choose partners who don’t put all the responsibility for safer sex on you. Look for partners who are comfortable putting safety discussions on the table.
9. Work toward being able to talk more candidly about sex and sexual health with friends and partners. Its easier to be safe when you don’t feel ashamed.
10. Don’t feel bad about yourself if you find this difficult. Many of us were taught that talking about sex isn’t romantic or that nice girls don’t. But we can, and we do — and it gets easier with practice.